Boeing’s reputation has been dented by its 737 Max 9 blowout earlier this month, but the aircraft manufacturer has recovered from greater threats to its credibility in recent years. However, impending lawsuits and an FAA investigation have the potential to turn this episode into another brand crisis.
Trust in Boeing Dips Following January Blowout
Since December, Boeing’s net trust rating among U.S. adults who are aware of the brand has ticked down 12 percentage points, from 32 points to 20 points, according to Morning Consult Brand Intelligence data. We’ve measured similar dips among frequent fliers, defined as those flying at least twice per year, and business travelers who are familiar with Boeing.
The aircraft manufacturer has been stuck in a negative news cycle since Jan. 5, when an Alaska Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing after a door plug on its Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft fell off the fuselage midair. Videos of the incident posted on social media have gone viral.
Notably, we aren’t seeing the same negative impact for Alaska Airlines, or for United Airlines, which announced that its crew had found loose bolts on its own 737 Max 9s during inspections.
The immediate worsening of consumer sentiment and an expected continuation of media spotlight means Boeing should prepare for the possibility of more reputational damage. The Federal Aviation Administration announced it would open an investigation into the company’s quality control, and passengers from the Alaska Airlines flight in question have announced plans to sue Boeing.
The blowback to the latest incident for Boeing comes as the brand was earning back the trust it had lost after four separate crashes in the past five years.
The first two crashes, which occurred within a five-month period spanning October 2018 and March 2019, had the largest impact on Boeing’s metrics, and both involved the company’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
Boeing’s Trust Metrics Over Time
Investors, or those with money invested in the stock market and mutual funds, appear spooked by Boeing’s bolt blowout, but not nearly to the degree they have been with its deadly incidents.
The commercial aircraft manufacturing market is less crowded than many other industries, which means the company has more room for error than many other businesses. That said, the company’s biggest competitor, Europe-based Airbus, has seen uneven but steady gains on net trust among U.S. consumers since the middle of 2019.
Trust in Boeing, Airbus, Over Time
That steady climb has come as the European air giant has maintained its No. 1 position in the global market over Boeing, for the fifth successive year in 2023.
Matthew Howe and Cameron Easley contributed to this memo.